Muslim community 'has made much effort to counter radicalism'

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu emphasized in a Facebook post yesterday that violent Islamophobia is another face of terrorism.

The Muslim community has put in much effort to counter radicalisation, and Singaporeans should not let the recent arrests of several radicalised individuals breed animosity towards Muslims.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said this in a Facebook post yesterday, emphasising that every person plays a role in keeping the community safe.

"We must not let these incidents divide us, or stoke animosity and fear in our multiracial and multi- religious society," she added.

Her comments come a day after the Ministry of Home Affairs announced the arrests of two Singaporean auxiliary police officers under the Internal Security Act.

Following news of the arrests, political and community leaders have cautioned against Islamophobia - especially in the light of an incident earlier this week when a Caucasian man drove his vehicle into a crowd of Muslim worshippers outside a north London mosque, killing one and injuring 11.

Ms Fu said violent Islamophobia is another face of terrorism, citing the attack as a chilling example.

In separate statements, self-help group Mendaki and the Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association (Pergas) expressed concern over the detention of two radicalised Muslims, saying that early intervention is key to preventing extremist ideology from taking root here.

Aetos officer Muhammad Khairul Mohamed, 24, was detained for planning to travel to Syria to fight against the Syrian government, while infant care assistant Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, 22, whose detention was announced last week, wanted to marry an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria fighter and be a "martyr's widow".

Mendaki urged the Muslim community to engage and befriend young people, stressing that family members are in the best position to provide guidance.

Two of Khairul's friends expressed regret about not reporting him, in a Tuesday interview with Malay-language daily Berita Harian.

The pair, who did not give their names, said Kahirul often spoke of taking up arms in Syria, and they had tried to talk him out of it.

"Now, I realise that he didn't heed my advice and kept holding on to his beliefs," said MK, a childhood friend in his 20s.

MS, a 25-year-old technician who knew Khairul from school, lamented not reporting his friend to the authorities earlier, and urged other young people not to make the same mistake.

MK said: "Maybe if I reported him, he might have been sent for counselling - religious counselling conducted by ustaz (Islamic religious teachers) and such. Maybe then, he would not be detained by the authorities."

Pergas said people should be circumspect about accepting information readily available online, which may not "suit the context of living in Singapore". It urged the community to verify information with religious teachers accredited under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme.

It also supported the decision by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore to reject an application by extremist Singaporean preacher Rasul Dahri, saying he is "known for his exclusivity, radical teachings and extremist ideology". Mr Rasul is barred from teaching Islam here, and nine of his books are also banned for promoting extremist views.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2017, with the headline Muslim community 'has made much effort to counter radicalism'. Subscribe